Tag Archives: passion

!nsp!re – Walking Away From Your Dream

I wanted to share this article from Allison Ford on The Gloss. In it, she details her decision to “give up on her dream” of becoming an actress. Her words and perspective resonated with me; and I think anyone who has struggled with career choices could benefit from reading her story.

Here’s the thing: You can have more than one dream. So many who pursue a career in the arts become obsessed with the one thing they THINK they want that they become blind to all the other possibilities that are out there waiting to be explored.

This situation is exacerbated by parents and teachers who encourage students to “follow their dream” and “pursue their passion” despite being able to (sometimes) see that the student is poorly suited for the path they are choosing.

When I was young, I wanted more than anything else in the world to be an architect. It took a while for me to understand that unless I could muster some interest in math, my career as an architect was an empty, pointless pursuit. As it turns out, I loved the IDEA of being an architect; but not enough to put in the hard work it would take to become one.

That situation repeated itself with music. Again, I had a huge passion for music, living and breathing records, tapes, and going to see concerts. My parents bought me a guitar and after two years of practice, I had gotten to be… atrocious at playing guitar. I was unable to parse that musical dream into distinguishing between loving music and playing music.

And then, finally, there was art. Always art; since early in elementary school. I dove deep into sketching, painting, sculpture, oils, watercolors, graphics, batik, etc. I was going to be a great artist. Except for the fact that I wasn’t a great artist. I was fine but far from exceptional. That was a hard pill to swallow.

Once I got into theatre, I fell in love with scenery design. I had a teacher who encouraged that love and I made up my mind to be a set designer. My reasoning was that it was sort of like architecture and relied on my art training as well. But again, that dream died.

It died when I saw The Police on the Synchronicity tour in 1983 at the Houston Summit. That night, I saw moving lights for the first time (they were in their infancy). I didn’t know what THAT was – but I knew I wanted to do it. So on my way to becoming a lighting designer, I left at least four dead dreams in my wake; and I regret it not one single bit.

As it turns out, my chosen career combines elements of many of those discarded dreams into one pretty sweet package. Had I known that could happen 30 years ago, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble starting down paths I then abandoned.

But each of those paths added to what I ultimately became, so they were worthwhile after all. I still engage my passion and love for architecture, music, and art; in my career and in my life. So, ultimately, they don’t feel like discarded dreams – they’re just elements that added to the whole.

Pursuing your dreams has to be done with diligence, care, and thoughtful self-examination. Note that I said dreamS. You can have more than one!


!nsp!re – Following Your Passion: Is That Really A Good idea?

I wanted to share this article I read recently on Huffington Post. In it, Cal Newport gives voice to a thought that has been nagging at me for a while.

I’ve heard others, over the years, give the career advice of “follow your passion and your dreams will come true”. It always rings hollow for me because while it sounds lofty, it’s more thin air than anything else. Many of my peers didn’t “follow” anything. They were intrigued by various interests and pursued them, often doggedly. Those pursuits revealed truths (i.e. I’m good at some things, not so good at others, and very poor at many things). That experimentation gave me some insight as to what I wanted to be, but I didn’t become truly passionate about it until I had been immersed in the field for a number of years and had learned more about it and, perhaps more importantly, what I could contribute to it.

My initial curiosity led to exploration, which created opportunity, which led to deeper knowledge and greater connection, which then revealed passion. That was/is my journey and it seems to be somewhat similar for many of my peers.

Perhaps its the term “follow”. Many of the most successful people I know pursued, cajoled, convinced, poked, prodded, inquired, hunted, persisted, persevered, and went after their careers. Rarely, if ever, did they follow. More likely, though, it’s that the advice doesn’t go far enough. For some, “follow your passion and your dreams will come true” is absolutely accurate. For many, perhaps even most, it is not. I talk to too many students whose goal is “to be famous”. The don’t know WHY; and they certainly have no idea how much work it takes to make that happen. They also don’t want to hear that quite often despite hard work and diligence, “fame” still eludes them. Being famous is clearly not a goal, but that’s also not something much of our youth wants to hear, either

I strongly believe that those who have reached a level of success in their fields have an obligation to give back, and to provide advice & insight to the next generation of artists (or workers) in their field. While we want to inspire dreams, we also must provide actionable, concrete advice in order for the next gen to be successful.

!nsp!re – Exploring Multiple Passions in One Job

Quick post to share a brief but interesting article. When I was trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up (or if…) I would get very frustrated. I was always interested in doing LOTS of things. It took me a long time to find the career that was right for me. If you share that same confusion and frustration, take a look at this article over on Mashable. It contains a few quick tips to help stimulate your thinking.

!nsp!re – Danny Elfman’s “Music From The Films of Tim Burton”

This year, we had the opportunity for an incredible evening. On Halloween night, we attended the Nokia Theater to see Danny Elfman’s “Music from the Films of Tim Burton”.Elfman and BurtonI have long been a fan of both artists. I never got to see Danny Elfman perform with Oingo Boingo during their legendary annual L.A. Halloween shows. It was only fitting that this show was on Halloween night in a city that dearly loves him.

Danny has said in interviews that looking back does not excite him; that he prefers to stay focused on the future. But on this, the 20th anniversary of “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, it felt like an assessment of accomplishments was in order. Danny worked with his arrangers to craft an evening’s worth of music, pulled from his 28 years of film scores; and asked Tim Burton to provide his character sketches as well as film footage of their work together. They performed several dates in London earlier this month and came to L.A. to play the Halloween show. The Oct. 31st date sold out quickly so Oct. 29 and 30 were added. The show was played by the 94-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra (many members of which have performed on Elfman’s score recordings) and the 49-voice Page L.A. Choir

Act 1 included Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks, Big Fish, and Batman/Batman Returns. Of these, Sleepy Hollow and the Batman suite were incredible standouts. The arrangement for Sleepy Hollow wove the different themes together in a brilliant tapestry of dark, majestic music; and soaring above it all, a young boy (couldn’t have been more than 12 years old) with an angelic, crystalline voice. Batman took me back to my first time seeing the film in 1989. Full of gothic mystery and thrilling bombast, the score felt new to me. While I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, I had forgotten just how much I loved Burton’s take on the dark knight.

Act 2 included Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Alice in Wonderland.

The arrangements for Corpse Bride and Edward Scissorhands were exquisite, showcasing the surprising variety of music found in each. The music from Edward Scissorhands is achingly beautiful, full of melancholy and a bittersweet longing for something simpler, something real.

Danny Elfman sings "Poor Jack"
Danny Elfman sings “Poor Jack”

And then, the opening notes of The Nightmare Before Christmas began. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get emotional. I have loved this film for twenty years; and out of the Tim Burton canon, the character I identify the most with is Jack Skellington. Jack is a creator; he is enthralled with doing something “new”. He longs to do something different. He is a child of wonder – and I’ve always been inspired by the sheer innocence and purity of his intentions. As the overture came to it’s conclusion, the man who gave voice to Jack Skellington strode across the stage, stepped up to the mic, and began singing “Jack’s Lament”.

“Oh, somewhere deep inside of these bones
An emptiness began to grow
There’s something out there, far from my home
A longing that I’ve never known…”

Acting the part, grabbing the mic, shaking his fists, stalking the stage, Danny Elfman became Jack – pouring his soul into the songs. It’s SO rare to see someone nakedly giving a performance of PASSION these days. No auto-tune, no back-up dancers, no exploding set pieces, no fancy lights; just pure, raw emotion. The next song, “Jack’s Obsession” was wonderful, sung with the confusion and curiosity it deserves. Danny followed that by introducing Catherine O’Hara (the original voice of Sally). Her thin, ghost-like voice beautifully captured all of the wistful vulnerability in “Sally’s Song”. The orchestra then launched into “What’s This?” as footage from that scene in the film unspooled on a giant screen with Danny playfully singing along, evoking the wonder and joy of seeing Christmas for the first time. He closed the set with “Poor Jack” (probably my favorite song from the film). As he traced Jack’s confusion, regret, and despair, his voice caught with emotion. As Jack’s regret turns to resolve and acceptance of who he truly is, Danny reached down deep and bellowed, “That’s right, I AM THE PUMPKIN KING!”.

It was like he had waited his entire life to sing that live; and the roof nearly lifted off the theater from the audience reaction. This is a man who clearly misses being on stage; and whose audience clearly adores him.

Finally, after the orchestra played the music from Alice in Wonderland, Danny came back out onstage for a rousing finale with “Oogie Boogie”. Catherine O’Hara joined him for bows. Just when it seemed like bows were over, out walked Tim Burton. I nearly died. The three stood and bowed, along with conductor John Mauceri, soaking up the adulation.

Since the show, I’ve thought a lot about long working relationships; how one person can enhance another person’s art; how artists can inspire each other; how one person looks at a blank page and sees images, whereas another person looks at a blank page and sees music. Danny has said in interviews that his working relationship with Tim is not easy; that each film is a little bit of a struggle. I understand that – sometimes you have to work through challenges to get to the core, to what’s good. Regardless of the difficulty it’s very obvious they inspire each other in a myriad of ways.

I came away from the show uplifted, enthralled, inspired, and determined to embrace a higher level of passion.

Katherine O'Hara, Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, conductor John Mauceri
Catherine O’Hara, Tim Burton, Danny Elfman, conductor John Mauceri